Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"?

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Dipper
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Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"?

Postby Dipper » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:48 pm

I've been riding Madison Metro all my life, but in the past month and a half I've noticed a disturbing phenomena: Metro bus drivers forgetting what route they're on, taking a wrong turn, traveling for blocks in the wrong direction, then trying to correct their error by backtracking on narrow streets never intended for city buses. This has happened at least four times in the last six weeks. And no, the buses weren't packed or the weather inclement. What gives?

Now I'd be the last one to call Madison Metro to complain and get someone fired, and my job isn't so time-sensitive that I couldn't stand being 20-30 minutes late to work. But has anyone else experienced this lately? I mean, how hard can it be?

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:53 pm

Yes! I thought it was just a freak occurence when it first happened, but then it happened two more times in the next couple of weeks. Turned out to be about 3 times in a month. One time was so far out of the way, i decided to get off and catch another bus, and I was lucky to catch another one right away. Its not the first time a bus driver went slightly off route, but it has never happened so frequently or so far out of the way before.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Crow » Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:20 pm

I’ve seen it happen before, but not recently. But this reminds me of one ride a year or two ago. The driver, a crusty older fella, was clearly new to the route. It was after a snowfall and a deep freeze, so the streets weren’t spectacular, and he got on the intercom to offer words of comfort. This was odd -- none of the other drivers ever bothered to chat with us.

“Rough roads today, folks, but don’t you worry,” he said. “I’ll get you where you’re going today. I’ve driven in worse stuff than this.” Actually, the roads didn’t strike me as all that unusual for winter, but whatever.

“I’ve been drivin’ bus for almost ten years now,” he continued. “Drove truck cross country for twenty years before that. Been on worse roads than this, believe me.” We were coming up on East High. One of the kids on the bus pulled the cord.

“So just relax, folks,” he went on. “I’ve put in plenty of time behind the wheel of these big things. We’ll get there no problem.” He rumbled past the stop.

The kids started yelling, and it took him a moment to cease his monologue and realize what was going on. Well past the stop by this point, he swerved the bus to the curb as quickly as he could. We held on against the sudden motion, and I imagine the car drivers behind the bus experienced no small amount of confusion and panic as the bus sort of skidded along the curb. With the bus finally stopped, the high school kids sullenly disembarked, muttering about the extra few blocks they'd have to walk.

The driver stayed quiet for the rest of the ride.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Slick Willy » Sat Dec 18, 2010 11:29 pm

Metro has been hiring more drivers than EVER before in an effort to eliminate overtime -- no more drivers get to earn $100K+ anymore. With all of these new-hires, there are going to be more mistakes. Most of these new drivers can't get regular routes, because all of the regular routes have been taken by the senior staff, so, in addition to being inexperienced, these new drivers are being forced to drive different routes every day to cover for those who are sick, injured, or on vacation, which increases the likelihood of making a mistake. Many of the new drivers are in their 40s or 50s, so you may think that they've been there for awhile because of their age, but Metro is hiring a lot of slightly older folks.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Henry Vilas » Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:50 am

Don't Metro buses have GPS?

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Slick Willy » Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:38 am

Henry Vilas wrote:Don't Metro buses have GPS?

Not exactly. What bus drivers have is a screen which lets them know whether they're ahead or behind schedule and where the time points are for the route they're doing based on the times listed in the Ride Guide. The Metro dispatchers can see where all the buses are on a computer screen, so bus drivers have to call dispatch if they get lost and need advise on how to get back on route after making a wrong turn. New drivers do have route books that they can follow to avoid making wrong turns, but mistakes still happen sometimes.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby gargantua » Sun Dec 19, 2010 12:17 pm

Seems like a perfect example of how people should be careful what they wish for. You no longer need to worry about a mere bus driver making a lot of money. In exchange, you get inexperienced drivers who may or may not know the route they're driving.

Hopefully that will be a temporary problem. Just don't be surprised that while the overtime costs go down, the overall salary/benefit costs go up. Be surprised if that gets the same amount of headlines.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby rabble » Sun Dec 19, 2010 12:54 pm

It's more the consequences of overly complicated routes than new drivers. I don't know what percentage of the routes are of the "alternating" variety - one time through they use one route and the next time use a different one - I just know the 3 and 38 do that. And when the 38 went to the express route, and at the same time went to a ten minute interval followed by a 20 minute interval, it took the drivers (and the riders) about two months to get used to it. Even the ones who called it in to the main office were told to go to the square when they were supposed to go via John Nolen. It was pretty frustrating. Then they threw in the detour at the Yahara and presto, instant cluster fuck.

One driver asked us passengers which way she was supposed to turn, listened to all of us saying "right" and then went straight, and then called in to the station to ask. Three times. We were a half hour late that time. The next 38 passed us while she was figuring out which way to go.

The Metro system is a commuter service, ie lots of buses during rush hour and barely anything during the day, and they're setting up the routes to get the maximum ridership numbers with minimum buses, which gets them pretty good numbers, lousy coverage, and routes that change with the time of day and depend on the route that the previous bus used. The newer drivers work a split shift. Four hours during morning rush, then three or four off, then four during the afternoon rush. And from what I can see, they don't get to run one set of routes till they get used to it and then move on to another.

I'm glad the system is there, we'll need the infrastructure in place for the time when the city needs to expand it into a viable alternative, but right now it's good for commuting and not much else. And if you use it to commute, you accept that once in a while you're going to look up and go "Oh dammit here we go again."

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Slick Willy » Sun Dec 19, 2010 3:56 pm

No, lately it's more the result of new drivers, because there are a ton of them out there right now. There are a plenty of routes that are of the alternating variety, so that's nothing new.

New bus drivers only work during the day if they're covering for someone else; otherwise, new drivers get stuck on nights. Day routes are more desirable nights, so the day routes are picked first, and the newbies take whatever is left over, or they get forced to be cover drivers. Routes being complicated (i.e., alternating) should have nothing to do with a driver making a mistake, because routes don't change much from year to year. A driver making a mistake and taking the wrong turn means they weren't paying attention to their route sheet or just got confused if they had never done the route before. Whoever that driver was who called into dispatch to figure out which way to go on the 38 was just trying to figure out how to get back on track. Drivers pick new routes every three months. The ones with the most seniority can stay on the routes that they had before.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby rabble » Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:49 pm

Slick Willy wrote:Routes being complicated (i.e., alternating) should have nothing to do with a driver making a mistake, because routes don't change much from year to year.

They do change every year. Sometimes twice. I ride them, I know.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby rabble » Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:55 pm

Slick Willy wrote:Whoever that driver was who called into dispatch to figure out which way to go on the 38 was just trying to figure out how to get back on track.

The first time, she was on track and went the wrong way, after being told by six people which way was right. The next two times she, and the dispatcher (who we all hope was not brand new to the job) were wrong, and both ignored the passengers.

What was funny was that each time she got "confused" she asked us, and then did the opposite.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Henry Vilas » Sun Dec 19, 2010 6:36 pm

Then I guess they do need GPS.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby Slick Willy » Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:39 pm

rabble wrote:The first time, she was on track and went the wrong way, after being told by six people which way was right. The next two times she, and the dispatcher (who we all hope was not brand new to the job) were wrong, and both ignored the passengers.

What was funny was that each time she got "confused" she asked us, and then did the opposite.

Don't quite understand how a dispatcher could have ignored the passengers twice, but I understand your frustration with the bus driver. Drivers have route books that list every turn that they're supposed to make, so this driver must have forgot hers.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby rabble » Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:45 am

Slick Willy wrote:Don't quite understand how a dispatcher could have ignored the passengers twice,

She told the dispatcher what we said.

Twice.

I've seen drivers with a single sheet of paper they were using to navigate, and sometimes handwritten notes, but I've never seen one with a book. Except the one they read on breaks.

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Re: Anyone else notice more Metro bus drivers getting "lost"

Postby TimeMasterFlex » Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:57 pm

Of course they get lost. If you had to drive around the parasite class day after day, you might do anything to break up the monotony.
They are not 'lost' they are entertaining themselves.


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